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Lakewood releases Lewis-McChord growth coordination plans

Traffic along I-5 in the area of Joint Base Lewis-McChord often looks like this, and is getting worse a the base's population booms.

When 17-thousand troops returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan this past fall, Joint Base Lewis McChord became the 3rd largest employer in the state. 

That's according to the City of Lakewood, which has released a plan to accommodate the rapid population growth in the communities around the base.

The military and civilian workforce at Joint Base Lewis McChord has grown by 43% in the past seven years – to more than 50,000. 

Only Boeing and the state of Washington have more employees, says Lakewood City Planner Dan Penrose.  "But both Boeing and the state of Washington as entities have campuses and locations all over the state." 

The joint base is concentrated in one area, and accessed primarily by 5 gates along I-5 south of Tacoma.  Anyone who uses that section of the Interstate knows how congested it's become. 

And that's just one of the challenges addressed in the new Joint Base Lewis McChord Growth Coordination Plan.  The plan is a collaborative effort of dozens of stakeholders in the south Puget Sound region, funded by the Department of Defense. It also looks at how to provide adequate schools, social services and housing... 

Penrose knows it's an ambitious scenario. The wish list outlined in the plan would cost billions. "And no one has that kind of money all by themselves. So the state, the locals and the federal government are all going to need to come together and weigh in on how that solution might come about."

He knows it will take decades to realize much of the plan.  But he says some fixes that don’t cost much have already come about because of relationships built in the year-long crafting of it. 

For example, the opening of an additional gate at the joint-base in October, which has eased traffic on the northbound commute.


Related story: Growth Plans as Joint Base Lewis-McChord Booms